Every day for the last several weeks, Apple has been in the news. For it's new iPhone or Apple Watch wristbands? Yes, but not for the reason I'm referring to... because of their ongoing battle with the FBI over iPhone encryption. Got a question for you - before this publicity, when was the last time you thought about the encryption on your device?
Like many first-adopters, you probably have a Kindle, possible an Android device, an old iPod laying around, and certainly an iPad and your iPhone. I'll admit that I haven't given it much thought. Passwords, yes. Logging out of publicly accessible equipment, yes. But the hardware and software that I pay for, that I trust to contain my digital life? Not really. Did you pick up on the key word earlier? Trust.
Throughout this ordeal, Apple has showed their supporters that they have their backs. It's important to follow the law, I completely agree. But, they're not going to unlawfully provide access to a clients data without the readily available tools to do so. What I've found so odd throughout the timeline this has been happening is how little security and encryption is encoded into the other technologies on the market.
On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled "Google Faces Challenges in Encrypting Android Phones." Turns out, the reason it's such a problem is that very few Android phones are encrypted. One of the drawbacks of an open ecosystem is sluggishness when the hardware and software don't work together harmoniously. Since there are so many manufacturers that utilize the Android operating system and it's designed to work on a wide variety of hardware platforms, the handset makers have resisted adding encryption to their devices because it can hurt the phone's over all performance.
Almost all of us buy from Amazon, and we know our transactions are safe and secure with them due to their world-class encryption, so that should be the same with their devices, I would think. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Shockingly, the Amazon Fire OSn5 has no encryption built into its software.
One of the most common questions we get asked is "when will Virtual Halo be built for Android?" That's a good question and we're interested in doing so, but we want to make sure we've built out our tech on a single platform first. Also, for us, it's very important that our tech is secure. Part of the point of Virtual Halo is that no one is watching you through our service. It doesn't actively report a user's location - only when events occur such as an SOS, a Check In, or when a user doesn't cancel a "Going Out" notification. We don't like big brother, and we're building our app to give our users the peace of mind that comes with our notifications. As Android matures, and adds encryption, we will look at that platform in earnest. It's a great software, and a lot of Android users have said that they're interested in Virtual Halo. For us, all in due time. But, safety, security, and privacy always come first.